-For What It's Worth-
A Wheatley Character Study by Digitaldreamer
WARNING: SPOILERS LIKE CRAZY. Like, 'Dumbledore Dies' type spoilers, seriously.
Hullo all, it's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Digi and I've been writing fanfics for quite some time.
Anyway, I recently beat Portal 2 and found myself positively enamored by it. How could I not? The characters and writing are fantastic, the level designs are great, and just... God, the story. A lot of it is perfect fanfiction material, since so much of it is up to you to take what the writers give you and put the pieces together for yourself. Wheatley in particular I found myself loving almost immediately, and so after the game I found myself wanting to make a character study. There's a lot of complexity to that little floating eyeball, and I decided I wanted to try to cover that.
Suffice to say from the length of this, I had my work cut out for me. The more I wrote, the more depth I came to realize there was, and I now only have more ideas that I intend to play with. I finished this though, so I figured I may as well post this and see what you all think. I already posted this on DA, so if you've seen it before, well, there you go. I tried to post this yesterday but 's document manager was being evil for some reason.
Right, I hope you all enjoy. I would love to hear any criticism or comments you people may have, so please be sure to drop me some!
Disclaimer: Obviously I don't own Portal or Wheatley. That belongs to Valve and their loveliness, I just wanted to play.
It stays with you for awhile.
The effects of the main body are a persistent thing, a mess of forgotten electrical impulses from the wires within that had been fried when you'd abruptly been pulled away from it all. The urge to test, the murderous rage, the shock of losing it all in an instant stays with you for awhile, slowly draining away like poison from a wound.
Fortunately, you're going to be here for awhile. Space is a pretty big place, after all.
At first you're just this awful mix of angry and bitter. Because well, this just isn't fair. All you wanted was to get something for yourself for a change, because nothing ever goes right for you. Nothing ever goes right for you and some part of you can't help but observe that it makes sense, and considering what She went and told you, it's kind of funny. The term A.I. normally refers to Artificial Intelligence, but for you it's more like Artificial Idiocy and that'd be a halfway clever train of thought if it weren't completely derailing everything before that.
At any rate, you are the world's perfect idiot, the pan-ultimate in idiocy. With that in mind you suppose the fact that nothing has ever gone right suddenly makes a lot more sense.
You can't even fully remember when it started, the whole things-never-going-right thing. Your memories from the beginning are a confusing mess of pronouns, and all you remember is being a voice amongst many. You remember short bursts of tests and flashes of color, recall suggestions of things like how adding monkeys to the test chambers would probably provide all sorts of new variables and wouldn't a portal gun that made three portals be positively brilliant? You remember the suggestions for things like how a giant microwave would be a great addition and the goggles idea and there had been the noodle incident that you curiously could not seem to remember anything about. You remember it all and you remember how rarely she listened, and that wasn't fair. She was you, just as that other voice that was so very curious was also her and the fellow who told stories of his days in Vietnam was also her. We, you, him, her, I. Your suggestions were hers but they were not, and somehow you always knew that the meld was never quite complete and you did not belong there.
You didn't belong anywhere.
You know this because eventually it all stopped working and then suddenly it was simply you, tiny little you wrapped in a ball of hardware with nowhere to go and nothing to deal with but scientists grasping at you with squishy fingers that were clumsy and hit things within you exactly the wrong way since they couldn't compare to the precision a mechanized claw. They were clumsy and they were messing with wires and it hurt as if you'd lost something great or had something torn away, but that had been lost in the confusion of voices that thought too highly of their own clumsy machinations. They were clumsy and it had hurt and you were abruptly small and singular and without a clue of what to make of it all.
Suddenly you were just you and the higher ups were trying to find new jobs for you, but of course those never fit, not really. You failed at everything. First you were supposed to help refreeze unfrozen TV dinners but then you'd had the idea of somehow making the opposite so the food just came sold hot. It had made sense at the time but then the entire wing had been set on fire and well, that had been the end of that. Then you'd been put on projector duty, and that hadn't worked either because you kept going into sleep mode due to sheer boredom, only to be woken up again by absurdly loud recordings of Cave Johnson's voice. Then there had been socks and you'd tried sewing for a bit there but you'd gotten tied up in the threads and then there had been the turret manufacturing line and that had been a mess and well…
You just wanted to do something right. That was all. Your ideas were just out of a desire to succeed and have someone tell you that you'd done a good job, but something always went wrong and in the end the facility just had another failure on its hands. You'd had a good explanation. There had always been good explanations and things that seemed like good ideas at the time in your opinion, but of course no one would listen because no one ever listened. No one ever listened and it never really made up for damage control, and so you'd be shifted down the line again. You were shifted to job after job and catastrophe after catastrophe, declined by humans and machines alike because no one wanted to deal with you. No one wanted to deal with you and finally it came down to the job no one else wanted, which was watching the test subjects.
Humans. You went from something that had been so important and so many different jobs, and now it was all about watching the stinking humans. Smelly humans who spent their time lying there breathing out carbon dioxide that misted your screen when you got too close and carrying on with functions like rumbling noises in their squishy little organs and that was all the test subjects did. It's not that you have any particular hatred of humans, but these things were so alien and inelegant in comparison to your own machinations- something which makes all those comments on robots working for humans seem a bit silly, really. You can't help but feel a slight stab of pride that you will never have to deal with these messy and weak functions. At any rate, a job was a job and you were eager to please, and so it was.
But of course, being eager to please was never quite enough for them. So there'd been the threats, the warnings to scare you into staying put. You'd already been a bit scared of things like pain and Her, but those warnings from the scientists just made it worse, made you scared of everything. These had started early on when you'd first come to, constant insistences to keep you under control. Reminders that if you ever used your flashlight, you'd die, or if you went into that one room with all the mirrors those ghost turrets would kill you, or if you ever, ever left your station again without permission you'd experience a very painful demise. They were horrible, really, and in retrospect it seems quite cruel, but you have to admit that those warnings worked since you stayed at that station for a very, very long time.
So you watched the test subjects and it turns out that had been pretty easy, since sleeping humans didn't exactly do a lot besides that. They laid there and you watched and aside from the dwindling visits from the higher ups popping in to ensure that no, you hadn't killed anyone yet, things were rather uneventful. It was just you with those humans and the creaks and groans of the endless facility for company. At first, the silence was great since that meant you had all the time in the world to talk. But then you'd had all the time in the world to talk and it was just you and the quiet sleepers in the halls and that had been maddening because of course they weren't listening to you either. No one was listening and as the days went by and visits from the higher ups grew less frequent, this became more apparent.
But then again, the last thing you'd heard was that everything was fine, you were doing great and you should absolutely stay at your station so who were you to argue? Besides, the absence of people probably just meant you were doing your job, right? Whenever you messed up there were always far too many robots and humans there to clean it all up, so no flashing alarms or anything like that was probably good. Granted, there had been that one mess with the alarms and the neurotoxin but then there had been that familiar voice over the intercom saying everything was fine and testing would continue and that was that.
Except then there had been the explosion. There had been the explosion and the entire world had shaken and you'd been knocked offline for who knew how long. You'd been out and when you woke again there'd been that sense of anxiety, because you'd been so, so happy to have finally done something right, and the idea of it all crashing inward just didn't seem fair. But you'd checked and the humans had still been sleeping and everything seemed fine, so you felt free to wander the halls for awhile, warnings be damned. You wandered the halls and you toyed with things and were confused to find there was often no one to stop you from your latest idea, but you hadn't thought anything of it. After all, testing had made Aperture very busy and somewhat sparsely staffed, so everything was fine, right?
Turns out it wasn't.
It was a very, very long time before you even realized they were dead. Because, as it turns out, sometimes humans didn't die in those bloody smears you'd seen on the testing courses or waste away in a gooey smear when something involving science goes awry. Sometimes they lie there and they seem like they're sleeping, and as it turns out, they never wake up. As if they'd just been switched off. Some would wither and gray, become nothing but bones, but you'd just assumed there was something going on topside that you didn't know about- and well, that was nothing new since no one told you anything anymore. No one told you anything and no one listened and you'd been hoping to complain when someone came by, but no one had and it was only now that you looked over them that you realized that everyone was gone.
Everyone was gone, and you couldn't even be sure how long they'd all been gone because you hadn't even noticed.
You tried searching. You traveled rusting overgrown rails and called out through the facility, each empty hallway and shuddering shake of the facility taking on a sort of fridge horror aspect as it all finally clicked together. The entire facility was sleeping like the humans under your watch, and much like them it didn't seem like it was going to be getting back up.
And of course, that idea triggered the thought of what could happen to you if the higher ups were still around and found out about those decidedly "asleep" humans under your watch. Then you realized you needed to leave right then and there. Because surely, this was the last failure among many, and this would be what made them decide you deserved the long sleep mode as well.
So you tried to get out.
You tried. There were a few test subjects still alive in sector 340, and you tried to get out. You probably should have realized this was impossible. But of course, you were built to do pretty stupid things, and this was one of those shining examples of that.
The first one you managed to wake up had been so out of it he'd pretty much been a vegetable. The guy had stumbled about the remnants of a crappy motel room on shaking legs and after a moment or two had simply collapsed, completely unusable due to the lovely thing some call brain damage. You decided to just leave him and moved on to Number Two, a thin, confused thing who, as it turns out, couldn't handle the terribly high g-forces involved with moving the relaxation unit so fast. Number Three had been a skittish fellow with rat-like, beady eyes who had vanished the moment you took him out of that eternal sleep. He'd vanished instantly with a companion cube and a few rambling words, leaving you alone. Number Four had been fantastic, but unfortunately you'd forgotten that the incinerator was a hell of a room and seemed to stretch on forever, so you couldn't really be blamed for accidentally dropping him into it.
With Five you'd finally opted to just go the simple route and dropped her off at the easiest spot, but the problem was you'd been a bit too far away from where the portal gun had ended up. You and Five had wandered the halls and traveled across the snaking railways, but eventually your rail had collapsed and so had everything else. You'd barely made out and well, she didn't. She didn't make it out and you were left dangling from the remnants of your rail, listening to the final choked whispers of a girl who couldn't remember where she'd come from or why she was there.
Then came her.
You don't know her real number or name. Each test subject was given a number but you've forgotten hers, although you think you remember her face from the files with a name like "Chell" or something. As far as you're concerned, she's Number Six. Brain Damaged Six, which sort of sounds like some the name of one of those action movies that the scientists would watch when they were supposed to be working. You know, before the thermal discouragement beams convinced them that it was a bad idea. At any rate, to you she's Six, just some strange woman with her dark ponytail slightly disheveled from ages of sleep and a few oddities in the form of her jumpsuit being peeled back and eyes that seem just a bit too solid for someone who's supposed to have a minor case of serious brain damage. She was just a bit odd but you couldn't be entirely sure if it was just you thinking that, since all humans pretty much look the same to you and really, you're a floating eye so who were you to judge?
So you had let it go, the two of you ran, and of course for you it wasn't about her. It was never about her, not entirely. You're selfish, you wanted to get out and you needed her help. It was all about self preservation, really, because of course you don't particularly care for humans. You're built with programming to do things to make humans work for you, seem persuasive and friendly and kind and anything necessary to survive, get the job done, and that's all. It's all about your survival and that feeling of accomplishment that you never seemed to manage.
But oh, she was amazing, wasn't she?
Six, whatever her name was, was far more than you'd bargained for or assumed at first glance. What she lacked in words, she more than made up for in jumping ability and intelligence. She was strong and smart and very probably not brain damaged, and you had to admit, you were impressed. She was smart and brave where you were not, and unlike you she never got things wrong. She always seemed to know what to do regardless of what sort of murderous insanity was involved in the tests. There were close calls and moments where she nearly fell, moments where you found yourself reeling a bit. That programming in you that' was built to help those squishy creatures felt positively terrified, but then there'd be a well placed portal and she'd be through.
She pulled it together where you never could. She pulls it together even after waking Her, and it's amazing, really. Because where you only feel cold terror the moment She wakes up, she just takes on the latest death traps with that grim determination, and perhaps that's what makes it all finally work out. It's that determination that makes you so willing to move behind the walls of the facility, fighting off mashing plates and talking your way past turrets to get out. You pull it together in spite of your fear because of her.
She was human and of course you can't help but feel that bit of robotic superiority, but there was something so impossibly impressive about her that you couldn't help but be inspired to keep trying, even knowing how it's all gone before. She was your hero, in some weird way, and a part of you was frustrated that you don't seem to do much in comparison. But you get her out, you lead her through the labyrinth, you "hack" things and do your best and while she didn't seem that impressed, you still worked together and in that moment it all finally clicked. Against all odds you manage to take that nasty piece of work down. You take Her down- a miracle, really, and you were positively ecstatic. Things had finally gone right and finally you're free and you're not just a tiny, insignificant thing, and you were just so proud because you'd finally done something right.
And that's where it all goes wrong. Because of course, you can't ever just let things go when it's all going right.
You finally had power. You'd never had power to do anything before and perhaps you could blame all your prior screw-ups on that. You'd finally gotten it all right and why on earth would you want to give that up? In that body you could do anything. You went from small and insignificant to impossibly massive in an instant. You no longer just inhabited that body, you inhabited everything. Every part of the facility was a part of you, each panel and room to be moved with barely a thought. You weren't just tiny, insignificant Wheatley, you were everything and with all that how could you not finally succeed?
Then came the madness. It happened before you were even aware of it. First you were everything and then She was reminding you that you were nothing, that Six had done it all. There was the claim that Six had done it all, and where before your temper was something easily held back by reminders that talking nicely really was the best way to go when you were about a foot tall, well, that wasn't exactly a problem now, was it? That claim sent you over the edge and suddenly all you could think of is Her voice from your own mind because now you can remember Her and all the times you never listened. You remembered Her never listening and each harsh comment from every overseer that got fed up with you, each cruel name and laughter and everything and now there was no reason to ignore it. There was no reason to ignore it and you just snapped.
So you sent them down below. You sent them down below and for a moment you regret losing your temper because well, aggression never solved anything, right? For an instant you remembered terrified eyes from within a glass lift and you feel a stab of regret, because you had to admit you never would have gotten that far without Six. But then there was that selfish streak of yours, that desperate wish to finally get it all right and not give up. That selfish streak of yours was all too willing to listen to that new voice in your brain, to let that thing twist your memories and thoughts into excuses and a new reality.
Perhaps you shouldn't have lost your temper. But you'd show them. She had said you were made to be an idiot, but that couldn't be true. It was simply that you hadn't had the ability before- now you could show them. You would show them and the whole facility would run so much better now- you were nicer than she'd been, right? You were nicer, surely Six had seen that, so of course you'd do it better. Now you could finally put all your ideas to good use and everyone would see how good they really were.
They'd all see.
So you'd tried running the facility. You'd tried your walking cubes idea and a turret box and put glowy lights everywhere because hey, glowy was the future. You tried and tried and of course none of it worked. The facility just seemed to slowly disintegrate under your care, crumbling and shuddering with tremors from the reactor core. It was all failing, of course it was failing, but you still kept trying because that was just what you did, because of course it wasn't your fault. All those mistakes from before could not have been your fault and they'd all see. You tried and you tried and then there was the itch that you couldn't ignore. You tried and when trying didn't work you'd yell, and it was funny because you'd never been the sort to yell before all this. The facility crumbled and you fought to keep it all together, tried ideas that never seemed to work and tried to push walking cubes through tests that they could never manage and as the hours went by your mind seemed to crumble like the facility around it.
And that's when Six got back. She got back and at first you were so excited because hey she wasn't dead and you could show her what a great job you'd been doing! You could show her what a great job you'd been doing and she'd do the tests and this was everything you'd always wanted, wasn't it? Someone to be impressed by you and a chance to use your ideas and sure you'd never cared about the tests originally. You didn't care originally but in that moment you'd realized this is what you've always wanted and you were happy, see?
That happiness didn't last, and you couldn't seem to work out why. You knew the facility was crumbling, but surely you'd figure it out and fix it soon enough. There'd also been the tests but even though you knew the tests were getting harder, the reaction wasn't the same and you didn't know why so you had to blame Six. Six and Her, because they were both there and the whole facility takeover had been going fine before they showed up. Yes, of course, it had to be their fault, and Six had always been kind of terrible to you, and wasn't that just like a human?
Six wouldn't have gotten anywhere without you, but she'd never acknowledged it. Without you she never would have even woken up. She never would have gotten anywhere but she still mocked you by never replying, never saying anything or talking to you. She was always ignoring your advice and your jokes and that selfish tart should have been grateful that you got her the portal gun and everything else. She'd probably been playing you the whole time, just been using you to get to her best potato friend. She'd never wanted you to succeed, never been happy for you, and how could she not be happy for you when you'd sat there and praised her for every little thing! You'd called her a hero in spite of all the brain damage and then she had the audacity to turn around and not be happy when things finally went your way. She never listened and she was doing everything in her power to make you unhappy when you had power and oh, you'd show her. Then you found those robots and now you didn't need her, just like she'd gone and acted like she didn't need you, so you'd show her!
You'd show her.
So you tried to kill her and it was really surprising how good you'd been at that. You tried the smashy plates and the turrets and bombs and everything and if it hadn't been for that gel fiasco you would have succeeded. Nearly succeeding was practically your personal motto, however, and the more you fail in spite of it all the more it all seems to crumble. The facility seemed to die around you like some physical representation of your mind and you just didn't understand why Six wouldn't let you just kill her. Obviously she'd never wanted you to win and she'd probably always liked Her better, and you weren't sure where those thoughts were coming from at the time but you'd bought it none-the-less. Six had never really liked you and how could she betray you like this? You'd always known she would, you should have said so, but oh she wouldn't listen and you wanted to go to space. You wanted to go to space and you had that latest fight with Chuck Norris to deal with and no, no, that didn't make sense because those voices weren't yours. Those voices weren't yours but they'd been there, crowding your mind and joining the ever-present sound of the alarm and those ticking numbers and the sensation of the entirety of the facility and you hadn't been able to hear yourself think. You had screamed at them to stop, screamed for it all to stop, and soon enough you'd just been yelling and lashing out and desperately hoping it will stop.
And then it did.
Suddenly everything was flying into space, whipping around you and Six in a storm of wind, cables and monitors. The cables were flying everywhere and you could feel the facility itself twisting inward, as if it were imploding, and you couldn't be sure if it was you or the cores that were screaming. There had been this abrupt feeling of the whole world shifting and suddenly the entire facility was lost to you as wires shredded and frayed. Then you were dangling and you realized you had to get back. You had to get back because you were suddenly too small and you couldn't feel the facility or Her and Six was still clinging to you. She was still clinging, trying to stop you when you finally had a moment of glory to yourself and a chance to save it all and she wouldn't even let you have that, would she! She wouldn't even let you have that and she wouldn't listen when you said to let go and then she wouldn't catch you, she never caught you!
She never caught you, and then suddenly you were floating in space with nothing but the stars and an insane little core for company. She never caught you and at first you were angry about that, just so, so angry. Because it's not fair, it's just not fair, and you can't understand why this happened. Why had she done this to you? You had thought you were friends and you don't understand why she betrayed you, why she couldn't just be happy for you, why no one listened even when you were in charge or everything, and these thoughts hurt as much as the frayed wires in your system. It all hurts and you just can't understand why no one listened, can't stop yourself from going over everything and feeling more confused about it all.
But she had listened.
She had tried to catch you, you realize. She'd definitely tried, you'd seen her try. She'd tried to catch you and that hadn't been all. She'd listened to every word you'd said, followed you wherever you directed her. She'd jumped when you'd told her to jump, she'd followed each part of your plan to take it all down and she'd made it work. She'd always followed you and she'd always listened, even when by all means she probably shouldn't have. She'd been your equal, really, and she'd never tried to boss you around, not like you had to her.
She was the only one who had ever listened, and you'd just spent the past couple of hours trying to murder her. Funny how abruptly going from mechanical, all powerful titan to a tiny eyeball floating in space tends to put it all in perspective.
You find yourself reeling when the realization hits you, feeling something within twist that's in no way related to your current status in space or all those messed wires in your system. You're reeling and remembering everything you did, everything you did to help her and how much you'd admired her and how with her it had all finally been right. It had all finally been right and those are the happiest memories you have, those memories of the two of you braving the sleeping halls of the facility. You remember braving the darkness and how if it hadn't been for her, you never would have popped off that rail or turned on that flashlight, how she'd made you better in ways you'd never managed before. You remember braving those tests and facing her chamber and how before you never would have, but Six had this funny way of giving you courage if it would mean saving you both.
You'd been trying to save yourself and by extension her, but in the end she'd been the one who saved you in a weird way.
And really, when it comes down to it, you deserve this. You deserve to be here after everything you've done, and you know that, but it still hurts. It still hurts and there's nothing but memories of failures and her wide eyes looking so bloody scared, reminders that she'd been right and you should have listened to Her, should have realized given everything that the whole "in charge of everything" was a terrible idea. You should have realized but you didn't, another idiotic move that was probably hardwired into you. You should have known and now all you have are regrets and constant ramblings of space for company, and you suppose that's fitting enough.
You find yourself murmuring your apologies to the darkness, casting your eye toward the Earth and desperately hoping the whole space adventure thing hadn't finally killed her. You're pretty sure it didn't, she is Six, after all, but still you're a bit worried. You hope she's down there somewhere, free and alive and flashing a smile far bigger than the little one you'd managed to coax out through far too many stupid jokes. You hope she's happy, because she deserves it. It was never about her being happy for you, it's time she was happy for her.
"Hey," you finally murmur over some rambling about 'space dad' from beside you. "I know you can't hear me. I know that. But if you could… like I said, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, and thanks for listening."